3d Rising Player Evaluations: AJO4Lax Fest in Georgia

3d Lacrosse specializes in training for individuals and teams and operates events and tournaments as well as select travel teams. The organization, founded by former Division I coach Jamie Munro, assists players and coaches using a compre­hen­sive system of lacrosse development that exposes young players to the tactics and strategies implemented at the NCAA level. 3d Lacrosse applies the "Box/Field Hybrid™ Development System," which Munro pioneered at the University of Denver.

LaxPower is carrying periodic player reports from 3d Lacrosse. Field staff attend high school games around the country and provide player evaluations and ratings. The ratings are either legit (likely a Division I scholarship player), player (likely a Division I recruit), and watch list (has the potential to be a Division I player; need to see more, needs to grow, mature, or develop to be sure-fire D1).

This report covers players on several high school teams in Georgia.

Coverage of the Georgia lacrosse scene kicks off with the 8th annual AJO4Lax Fest at Pope High School. The event honors the memory of Andrew Oswald, a star Pope High School attackman who died tragically as a result of a single-car accident in Marietta in 2005. Proceeds support the Andrew J. Oswald Memorial Fund, Ltd., which to date has raised over $120,000 for college scholarships, grants to community-based high school and youth lacrosse projects, and teen safety education initiatives.

"We continue striving to ensure that our teens are properly educated before they get behind the wheel," said Andrew Oswald's father and the Fund's co-founder and President, Bruce Oswald. "Our primary mission for the last two years has been helping Georgia's teen lacrosse players to make the right life decisions."

This year's tournament featured all of last year's state finalists: 6A contenders Centennial and Lambert and 5A and below contenders Westminster and Northview as well as semifinalists Decatur and Lassiter. Other schools participating included Blessed Trinity, Pope, Walton, and Lovett.

I really like this particular tournament because it gives a look at teams in mid-season. Some arrive with undefeated records but have played easy schedules to date. Others are more battle-tested. The AJO4Lax Fest begins to separate the pretenders from the true contenders for state titles.

A bit of background on the Georgia lacrosse community is in order. Lacrosse has been a state-sanctioned varsity sport for 10 years. The sport has seen an explosion in popularity over the past five years. There are 83 high schools fielding varsity teams, primarily in and around Atlanta. This is up from 76 in 2013. The rapid growth of the sport facilitated two divisions starting in 2011 (6A schools and 5A and below schools), each competing for separate state titles. Both public and private schools play in the GHSA. Student body size does not translate to dominance. Smaller private prep schools such as Westminster and Lovett, with rich lacrosse traditions, are highly competitive with the biggest public school programs.

What makes a difference in terms of a player's or program's success is the quality of the coaching. To date, any program with a state championship to its credit has had consistent and experienced coaches, most having played at upper-level Division I schools.

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